Is ‘what if’ keeping you from HIV testing?

HIV and fear have had a long history together, from the start of the pandemic where there was little information about safe sex and a lack of effective treatments through to the fear-based prevention campaigns of the 80’s. We now know that fear can no longer be the driving factor in our response to ending HIV, but still many guys experience fear and it continues to keep guys from getting tested.

There are many fears and concerns surrounding HIV tests, one of which being the “what if” question.

What if I test positive?

What if my friends and family don’t accept me, or understand my diagnosis?

What if my job finds out about it?

What if no one wants me anymore? Is this the end to my love life?

Being overwhelmed or scared by these questions is understandable, and however irrational it may sound, some would rather not test just to avoid facing up to these questions.

Journalist Kyle Tramonte writes about these same fears in the article The HIV fears and phobias that keep you from getting tested and into treatment by examining HIV Equal Online’s senior editor, Tyler Curry’s journey from an unexpected HIV diagnosis to accepting and embracing his status:

Fear about how individuals will react at home, discrimination in the workplace, the implications for a future love life and concern for one’s own personal well-being are completely understandable responses for a person with HIV.

Still, regardless of how much we empathize with these concerns, a counterproductive tendency exists in both the gay and straight communities. Most of us feel that only those who are HIV positive need to understand the virus, which results in condemnation out of misplaced fear. And, as Curry notes, this can lead people to try to “escape” a positive diagnosis through purposely avoiding testing or hiding their own status from those closest to them.

HIV stigma or the fear of being rejected because of your positive status is what is keeping some guys out of the testing room, and it’s something that we need to change. And we can change it, with knowledge. HIV has become a chronic but manageable condition, and those who are diagnosed with HIV who are on treatment can expect to live a normal life span. As a community we need to come together and understand HIV and the risks, so that we don’t let fear shape our opinions and our words. When we talk about HIV and safe sex it needs to come from a place of knowledge not fear, love not hate.

If you would like to get a HIV test, ACON’s a[TEST] offers free rapid HIV testing, run by gay men for gay men. You can find out more about a[TEST] and their services here.

If there’s something holding you back from getting a test, we’re here to listen and help. Leave a comment below or ask us anonymously here.